The kindest thing that critics say of David Blunkett is that he knows he’s wrong – he’s just forced to implement daft policies by the bullies in Downing Street. There’s nothing so kind to be said about Chris Woodhead: his error is fabulous, his thinking is fatuous. But the poor boy really believes it.
Stories categorized “Schools”:
Nothing I have ever written has produced a reaction like the Guardian series on schools which is now being published as a book – a torrent of readers’ letters spilling over with passion, more than a hundred invitations to speak at public meetings, a couple of journalism awards and a personal denunciation from the prime minister and the secretary of state for education. The current editor says the response was of a different order to anything else he has seen since he took over the paper (and this is the editor who presided over the demise of Aitken, Hamilton and Mandelson). What was that about?
One good thing about spitting is that it helps to pass the time. It’s morning, about nine o’clock, and down on the streets of south London the school buses have dumped their loads and the playgrounds have gone quiet. Up here, on the top floor of the tower block, the day has started, as it always does, with Karen and Philly and Annie May and the others, sitting slouched on the black-tile floor by the liftshaft, staring at the scorch mark at the top of the rubbish chute and smoking fags and watching the minutes go by and practising their spitting.
There were eighteen children in a classroom. All of them had three things in common: they were all studying Macbeth for GCSE English; they had all turned in essays to be assessed as part of their GCSE; and not one of them had written a single word of any of the essays, because their teacher (with a little help from her husband) had spent the weekend writing the whole lot for them.
In the bizarre world of Britain’s target-driven schools, it is not only teachers who have joined children in cheating to get good results. The Department for Education are in there, too.
If Tony Blair can do it, then so can we. Let us think the unthinkable. Repeatedly.
It is no longer shocking to hear of secondary school students becoming involved with drugs. It would be shocking but not unprecedented to find primary school students doing the same. However, this is the story of a primary school headteacher who was sacked last month for stealing from her school after becoming embroiled in paying off drug debts to a gang of armed crack dealers.
It is speech day at Roedean College. The string orchestra plays Mozart’s Divertimento in D as the parents gather in the Centenary Hall. They have come to hear the Chairman of Council report on the state of the school, to join the applause for the retiring staff and to watch the three head girls deliver their review of the year, but most of all, these mothers and fathers have come to salute the achievements of their children.
There are many mysteries in David Blunkett’s Department for Education, but the greatest of them all is this: where has all the money gone?
Let us begin with the story of what the historian Professor Brian Simon once described as “probably the biggest hijack of public resources in history”. This was plotted 131 years ago when the government’s Schools Inquiry Commission declared that there was no reason to encourage ‘indiscriminate gratuituous instruction’, an idea which they compared in its mischief to the indiscriminate donation of alms to beggars. They proposed an ingenious reform, which was rapidly adopted by Parliament.